When it comes to shot placement on elk, remember that our emphasis as your coaches is to insure a solid, responsible and ethical shot. You need to understand that there are very lethal shot locations that can be made, and we have nothing against someone choosing to take those shots. Those particular shots made by someone that totally understands an elk’s anatomy and taken within a hunters effective and solid killing range, if made, are extremely lethal. With that said, we will briefly discuss those shots and then we will give you our shot recommendation and the reasons behind it.

The Frontal
The frontal shot, when made, is a devastating shot. Animals shot here, generally will go down in minutes, if not seconds. However, it is imperative that the hunter that shoots this shot has a complete grasp of an elk’s anatomy as well as great shooting skill. This shot should only be taken by those that know what they are doing and I highly recommend that the shot not be taken over twenty yards. This is not a shot we recommend. If not made correctly, it guarantees a wounded animal and no recovery.

Graphics credit belongs to Wapiti Fit.

The Golden Triangle
If you look at the anatomy of a bull elk, the “golden triangle” that I am talking about is just that, golden if you ace it. A shot here on a broadside animal can be anything from a direct heart shot, to hitting the top of the heart to a double lung hit even with the shot being a little high. So again, I can’t say not to shoot there. Deadly shot, If made. 

The Golden Triangle

With that said, I have seen a ton of shots attempted there that have gone bad and give me three things to worry about as a guide: ( I always feel if it’s not me shooting, I am not in total control, so the variables of what can happen grow)

  1. Too low one way and hit the leg, or too far to the side and catch the shoulder bone, or too low another way and get brisket. Two sides of that triangle are risky.  If you hit any of those areas as described, you are not going to recover. 

2. If the shot is a bit off, missing the heart and ends up in the crease, it usually is not a pass through and when the bull runs, he shears the arrow shaft and the skin covers the entry wound and he bleeds internally. Hard tracking job, with the possibility of losing blood trail. The animal is going to die, but you risk not recovering the animal. 

3. If the bull is quartering away and you shoot that spot, and the heart is missed….that means you only get one lung. You are not going to recover that bull for about 4 to 6 weeks. 

Double Lung
My number one goal is 2 holes to insure I recover my bull. So I always shoot for a double lung. And by shooting mid body, about 4 inches back from the crease, that line coming up from the elbow, you have plenty of room in each direction. I don’t care if he dies in 30 or a hundred yards. I want a blood trail …. A pass through, and that is what you get most of the time if you hit that bull where I have shown you.

My shot preference…Mid Body, about 3″ to 4″ behind the crease.

Also, if you shoot off slightly to the right, left, up or down …you are still golden. 

If you don’t get a pass through, you WILL get both lungs.   If I double lung the bull, he is going down in a hundred yards…especially if I bugle after my shot to calm him down. I have just let the air out of the balloon…it IS a dead bull. Make that shot, be diligent and stay put, leave him alone for 30 minutes to an hour, and you will be doing the happy dance. 

AND if you shoot a heavy arrow with solid energy, you help yourself with a pass-through and a blood trail that Ray Charles could follow. Trust us when we say that no one wants to feel that sick and demoralizing feeling of losing an animal.

Quartering Away
I also always remind hunters to look at the legs to be able to tell how much the animal is quartering or if he is solid broadside. We don’t shoot an animal quartering to us. And for a quartering away shot, ALWAYS aim for the leg on the opposite side as shown in the pics.

Each and every one of us has to to determine just what the most effective range and shot placement is, that we are most comfortable with as ethical and responsible hunters. That determination can change from year to year based on better or declining proficiency. So we all need to constantly look inside ourselves and make a decision that we will be able to live with.
We would however like to drive home the fact that your goal should always be two holes, a pass-through, double lung hit. Not only insuring a quick death, but the solid blood trail as well needed to insure recovery.

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Best feature EVER on shot placement. Not knowing this can cost you a bull of a lifetime–even worse–without a comprehensive understanding of elk anatomy and your abilities, you might end up wounding a magnificent bull and never recover it. Take some time to study the information MasterGuide Joe gives you here–over and over again! Make it automatic to know exactly what to do when presented with an opportunity or a no-shot decision.

    1. ElkBros

      Thanks Larry for the positive feedback! Good luck this season!

  2. Brendan

    Thanks for this great information and supporting graphics. This segment is first rate and should be easy to remember in the heat of the moment!
    Great stuff.

    1. ElkBros

      Thanks Brendan for the positive feedback! Good luck on your next “moment”!

  3. I think you need to know where to place the arrows. If you place the arrows too high, it could keep the animal alive and in pain. I’ll have to consider getting a new bow with new arrows.

    1. ElkBros

      We always recommend to shoot whatever works best with your setup. Plenty of guys still shooting with stick bows and getting it done every season. All about confidence in your equipment and shot placement from there.

    1. ElkBros

      Thanks for your support.

  4. Chris McKelvy

    I love the way you guys put your info out there. I’ve spent most of my hunting career with a rifle but have chased animals with a bow before and will do so a lot more in the future and I love the 2 holes approach, and even more the bit about aiming for the offside leg on quartering shots. I love what you guys are doing and the way it is presented. Keep up the awesome work.

    1. ElkBros

      Thanks Chris! We totally love what we do and when we get to share it with others and help them to have some of the same incredible experiences that has made our lives so special, well Bud, that’s a win win!

  5. John

    Wish I would have read this before last week. Had a monster at 15 yards and tried to place my shot right behind the shoulder. Arrow penetrated 11 inches and sheared off when he ran. Very little blood but tracked for about 1/2 a mile before loosing all blood. Hoping to go up this Saturday and let the crows and buzzards find him for me.

  6. Tiffany

    Thank you so much. I am going to be switching to Archery this year and this information has made me so much more comfortable about going out. Thank you!

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